How do you feel about your divorce – are you ready to get on with it or are you resisting the process?
Upon his return from a business trip, Sean greets Rachel with a nonchalant brush on the cheek. “We have to talk” he whispers in her ear as he pushes past her to tuck the kids into bed.
While she listens to the laughter from the bedrooms, Rachel wonders whether his work will take him away from home again soon. She boils the kettle and starts to prepare his coffee, just like she has always done for the past twelve years that they have been together.
“Leave the coffee. Let’s sit down.” he says. He is going away again soon, she sighs. “Rachel, I am not happy. I want a divorce.”
It seldom happens that two people agree to get divorced at the same time, for the same reasons. What normally happens is that one spouse announces the wish to get divorced, to the surprise and devastation of the other.
We go through a lengthy process of weighing our expectations, emotions and fears before making such a life-changing decision. By the time we make up our minds, we have mourned the loss of our marriage to a degree and come to terms with the reasons why the union did not last. When Sean was ready to announce his intentions to Rachel, he had a fairly clear picture of the way he wanted to go forward.
Rachel, however, literally has the carpet pulled out from under her and has to deal with an overwhelming array of emotions – utter surprise, disappointment, feelings of rejection, fear, anger etc. It is little wonder that conflict ensues.
Traditionally, Sean, who is eager to dissolve the marriage and get on with his life, would employ an attorney to start litigating the process of divorce. On the other hand, Rachel, might consult a counselor in an effort to figure out what went wrong and appeal to Sean to join her, in a desperate attempt to save her marriage.
All the while, because they find themselves in two completely different places in their lives, they are drifting further apart and the situation becomes untenable for both of them.
If they opted for a mediation process, they would be able to get together with a skilled professional and ascertain their individual needs, which are quite different at this stage, as well as the needs of their children. Getting a clear picture of what everybody wants and needs, helps to establish empathy and insight while laying a safe foundation for negotiating the specifics of a divorce settlement.
If, however, it becomes apparent that one or more parties involved need support such as therapy for Rachel and/or Sean or play-therapy for the children, decisions and arrangements can be made to ensure the well-being of the whole family. In some cases, couples might even realise that they would rather make an effort to resolve their differences and reconcile, which could also be facilitated by mediation.
Furthermore, if Rachel and Sean discover that they require some legal or financial input, it can be acquired as part of a collaborative process. This applies to any assistance or service relevant to a civilised separation.
Read this article for more information about the Ownership and Collaborative Management of your Divorce.
In order to reach an amicable and fair divorce agreement, everybody has to be satisfied that they are being heard and their interests are being protected. Where litigation is designed to argue and win the fight, mediation is designed to communicate and compromise. That is why it is of the utmost importance that both Rachel and Sean not only grasp where the other person is at in their divorce process, but also have compassion for each other’s perspective on the situation, depending on who is walking away and who is being left behind.
It reminds me of that Kenny Rogers song “I’m running and she wants to walk…” If you’ve had it and want out pronto like Sean, be patient with your partner who desperately needs to make sense of what is happening first. On the other hand, if you’re devastated and wish that you could wake up from this nightmare, try to understand that your partner might be way beyond any desire to make amends.